Monday, April 30, 2007

Monkey Business

Hey Soul Mates,
a revolutionary event has occurred in the UK regarding the Arctic Monkeys' new disc, Favourite Worst Nightmare (see my previous blog). Due to the way in which the new British charts are acknowledging Internet downloads (counting every track sold on an album towards album sales and individual sales), all 12 songs landed in the Top 200 singles chart in the UK, 3 in the Top 100! Of course, on the album chart they debuted at #1, but this is a paradigm shift. To my knowledge, never before has an act's entire record ruled the singles chart like this. Although, it's not the domination of the Beatles in 1964 or the Bee Gees in1978, where the relevant songs in the chart were legitimate singles, it is impressive nonetheless.
Love, Power, Peace

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sheffield's Own

Hey Soul Mates,
well, I just got shut out of buying tickets for the
Arctic Monkeys' surprise gig at the Troubadour tonight. I was hoping to see them, because I believe they have just released the first Great Album of 2007. Their hype didn't snare me last year. Especially when we played their home turf, there was a lot of buzz. Yeah, I'd heard I Bet You Look Good... but wasn't wowed. Their new disc Favourite Worst Nightmare has bowled me for 6, as I learned from Bowieboy this week.

Track 5, Florescent Adolescent, may be the best thing I'll hear this year. And to write more about it would spoil the way I feel about it. The Wizard of Oz inspired Old Yellow Bricks features the lyric "Who wants to sleep in the city that never wakes up? Blinded by nostalgia." Wish I had written that. And I love the last stanza of Teddy Picker:
"Assuming that all things are equal
Who'd want to be men of the people
When there's people like you?"

It's always marvelous when artists as young as the Arctic Monkeys can create such sophisticated and lyrically ingenious pop tunes. Now I get why they are getting comparisons to the Beatles. They are NOT the Beatles, but there is much to love about the Monkeys. Imagine if Lennon had been into hip-hop and you get an idea. If they can keep their stuff together for a few more years, we'll look back at this moment as the coming of a legendary group.

Speaking of Bowieboy, I had a great week chauffeuring and playing tour guide for our soul mates from Sheffield. Thought that would give me good mojo to see Sheffield's Monkeys. The Smiths still brought good mojo along with my favourite flavour of Twining's and Lotus biscuits. Oi! I even took them to Amoeba to see L.A. very own Taj Mahal of Records. And Dodger Stadium, the other Taj Mahal in town. It's always refreshing to see your city through other eyes. The beauty, the madness, the traffic, the sunshine. Well, having had another taste of the North, I can't wait to get back to Yorkshire.

Here's yours truly decked out for a hot, sunny day in Los Angeles. We were outside of the real hospital used as the set for "Scrubs," which is down the street from my place. Photo by Bowieboy.

There is one other recent release that I give props to:
Amy Winehouse's Back To Black. It's Motown, Wall Of Sound and Etta James fuelled by lots of alcohol, late nights and strife. It's what several Motown artists might have produced had they the chance to write their own material back in the '60s. Oddly, Winehouse is a petite but heavily tattooed, white, Jewish girl from England with a sultry voice and great tunes. Plus the arrangements and production take you straight to L.A. or Detroit 1965. It has to be heard to be believed. And then you have to see her elegantly wasted performances to get the whole artistic picture. Not oddly, Arctic Monkeys have a live cover version of Winehouse's new single You Know I'm No Good. The Brits are onto something...

To recap my favorite releases of the year so far:
1. Arctic Monkeys - Favorite Worst Nightmare
2. Amy Winehouse - Back To Black
3. Fall Out Boy - Infinity On High
4. Locksley - Don't Make Me Wait
5. Elliot Yamin - s/t
6. Katherine McPhee - s/t

Plus I'm really digging Kaiser Chiefs' single Ruby and 747's Rain Kiss. A really great start to 2007 musically. And you haven't even heard the new single from Rush Hour Soul, yet!
Love, Power, Peace

Monday, April 23, 2007

L.A. Summit

Hey Soul Mates,
2/3's of RHS gathered here in NoHo tonight with our friends from the UK. We munched on take-out Chinese and had a cuppa Twining's Everyday courtesy of the Smiths. They brought our favorite flava from Britain. Ah, sense memories. It really took us back to last year's tour. The Smiths were bold enough to see us twice while we were in England (York & Barnsley).
It was great to chat with them again in person. Tomorrow, we'll do some sightseeing. Andrew is a big fan of Sheryl Crow's All I Wanna Do. I've just figured out where the bar and the car wash from the song are. Although, the car wash is no longer there, we'll do our best to have a beer around noon. Then we'll go check out the Pacific in all its glory.

Here we are with Andrew aka Bowieboy this evening.
Love, Power, Peace

Showing Off Los Angeles

Hey Soul Mates,
It's been a few days. I kept busy this week, did you? My Dad was in town from Atlanta. Which was very cool. It was the first time I had several days to visit with him without one of my brothers around since a trip to see my uncle Danny in Brooklyn in the 80's. So we had lots of quality time.

It was a chance to show off Los Angeles, which is something I love to do. Of course we went to see the Dodgers on Friday. Of course, Dodger Dogs were involved (See photo). And
Nomaaaaaaaaaaaah! The Bums did a number on the Pirates, bringing home 6 in the bottom of the third. When you bat around and the starting pitcher drives in two with his first double that's trouble for the Buccos. Dad listened to Vin Scully's Hall Of Fame play-by-play on his AM radio. Which is cool since he used to do that in NYC in the 50's. Speaking of the 50's LA was cold and damp for my Dad's visit. It got so frigid during the game that Dad said, "I'm waiting for someone to throw a touchdown!"

On Thursday night, we attended the theatre. The Huntington Library put on a wonderful event called the Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods For Jazz performed by the
Langston Hughes Project. Dad and I read through the poems this masterpiece was based on before going. The show was multimedia: spoken word, video montage of vintage images from Harlem to the Deep South from the late '50's/early 60's and a fantastic original jazz score. The link above will take you to the LHP site. Here's a link if want to see excerpts from Ask Your Mama. And here's us in front of the Huntington.

Dad and I also did a lap through the Jazz section of Amoeba Records on Sunset Blvd. A relatively new cultural hot spot here in LA. We went through the bins and Dad grabbed a number of out-of-print LPs by the
Mastersounds. All in all a great weekend with my Pop.

I've got another opportunity to brag about my town this week. RHS Soul Mates Andrew and Anne Smith are coming in from Sheffield, UK to visit. This their first trip to LA, so weather work with me!

Be well, everybody. The music is coming soon!
Love, Power, Peace

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Leisure Rules

Hey Soul Mates,
In RHS musical news, Adam Marsland has begun mixing our freshly recorded tracks. He started with I Can't Cry For You. We are also ramping up Love Someone to submit into a competition. There is a possibility that I'll be down the studio tonight with our engineer Steve Refling wringing out a single edit of it. I will get you details as they become available.

Here's the personal stuff. We all pay our respects in our own way. Me, I cranked up Ferris Bueller's Day Off and howled with laughter and sighed with nostalgia, remembering the night my high school crew went to a fantastic double feature. It was a sneak of Ferris paired up with the too-ridiculous for words Adventures of Jake Speed. Jake Speed was the first time I went to the movies and got in trouble for making too much noise with friends. Jimmy Hilton, can I get a witness!?

Yesterday, I was supposed to fly to Seattle and visit my homegirl Susan (ed. note: see previous blog "
L'Chaim"). Sadly she passed away Tuesday afternoon. At least I know she knew I was trying to get there, and I know she was trying to hang on. I had joked with Susan that I would show up outside her window holding aloft a boombox blaring Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes.

So last night, I watched one of our favorite films and drank deep the comedy and high school drama that is FBDO. I think my buddy Paul and I pull a line or mime a sequence from that film everyday. If you haven't seen it in a while, revisit it. You'll be glad you did.

Thanks to everyone who has sent positive energy to her family in this time.

Enjoy your Thursday. It's windy up here in L.A.
Love, Power, Peace

Monday, April 09, 2007

Marathon Men: Album Sessions Day 9

Hey Soul Mates,
Our vocal session went for 12 hours yesterday/today. It was a marathon. We started at 1 pm with I Can't Cry For You followed by Everything My Heart Desires. It was full steam ahead all day. Adam Marsland was coaxing some great performances from yours truly. I really hit stride on Love Someone (pure church!) and Sucka. For Sucka, we had a special guest vocalist, Teresa Cowles (pictured with Bryan and me). She helped us on the chorus and did a hilarious spoken word section. Adam was particularly amused. Late into the evening we tackled Everyone's Ingenue and we came down to the wire with Down By Love.

Here are some photos (credit: Patty Tokahuta) of us from yesterday. You'll see us gathered around the mic and Teresa! I'm not going to post the pic, but somehow, Bryan's hair ended up with a samurai ponytail on top of his head. You can thank me later, Bry.

Love, Power, Peace

Friday, April 06, 2007

RIF Truck

Hey Soul Mates,
here is my response to all of the comments from my previous blog "The Year I Read Books." Reading IS fundamental. Thanks for the recommendations.

For the unwashed,
RIF used to have these great TV commercials featuring a bookmobile that never saw 5 minutes in my neighborhood as a kid. Instead, we had to hoof it a half-mile to the public library. Part of that old-fashioned "get out and exercise" thing in the '70s. To be honest, my favorite thing to borrow from the Heights library wasn't books, but the vinyl of the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night and Magical Mystery Tour. No kidding. You always got a cool record carrying bag to take them home in.

Oh, also for the uninitiated, THIS is the bookish Scarlett Johannson, proudly showing off her... Louis Vuitton bookbag. It's got room for four paperbacks or a hardback. There's a small side pocket for a box of raisins or reading glasses. And a special holder on the inside for her library card. Enjoy those books, Scarlett. Or perhaps she's checked out some Rush Hour Soul CDs from the RIF truck. We'd endorse that.

Have a great weekend and a good Friday. Ha ha.
Love, Power, Peace

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Year I Read Books

Hey Soul Mates,
It was Egon Spengler who declared back in 1984 that print was dead. Stuff and nonsense. Lately my favorite pastime has been picking up books and reading them. There've been lots of times I've bought books or been lent them and let them languish on a shelf or worse in storage. I might have several going at once and none of them get finished. But I'm trying to rectify that.

At the end of 2006, I bought a second hand copy of Stephen King's
On Writing after reading that the creators of Lost gushed about it (and his epic The Stand) in an interview with Mr. King. That became the springboard for half an idea. In the book, King says to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. Which means reading as much as you can. Same thing goes for music. I try to listen to as much as possible. Not to an overwhelming extent, but to understand the tools for construction.

Then, on Sunday, I espied a row of book journals/logs. In them, there are spaces for listing the books you've finished, who wrote them, your own personal thoughts, etc. You can find them at any fine bookstore, but I figured I go a slightly cheaper route. I bought a simple leather bound journal, pocket-sized, like the ones I use for travelling. It is less cumbersome than the pre-fabbed book books. So, I'm keeping track of what I read and it's pretty dang cool. Years from now, I'll be able to see what I read, how I came into possession of the book and why I read it/what I thought of it.

I always felt like I couldn't finish fiction, novels particularly. Always seemed like it took forever to get through something of more than 300 pages where plot was involved. But to my surprise Saturday, after 2 years of languishing on the bookshelf, the nightstand, in backpacks or worse, I completed Carlos Ruiz Zafon's mystery/melodrama
Shadow Of The Wind. The last time I had read a page of it was 4 July 2005.

In March, I whisked through Mike Jacobson's page-turning debut
Jacob Have I Loved, and thus wound up being first to review it. When I had caught up logging my reading total for the first 4 months of the year, I'd run 6 books cover to cover. Half of them fiction! Ain't I special?

What I'm getting at, is that I'm enjoying reading and I'm spilling my guts that I love a good used bookstore as much as a good used record store. In my neighborhood, there is the
Iliad. A wonderfully funky spot to pick up $2 paperbacks by Ian Fleming, Graham Greene or Stephen King. Or as I did Monday, I unearthed a $1 hardback of Lonne Elder III's Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, complete with photos from the original off-Broadway production. The Iliad has moved a few blocks further from my place, no longer walking distance, but always worth a detour. They also have a plethora of wonky cats, allergic types beware. [If you are in Atlanta, the Book Nook is a comparable (but less vibey) place to find bargains.]

It seems that libraries still exist, though I always have trouble proving I live anywhere to librarians. So I have become a regular at the local Borders, too. They are good enough to send me coupons every week. Might as well give a junkie $5 off his next hit. But as I mentioned, places like the Iliad are the mack. You can't necessarily pull up a chair and a latte, but at a dollar a pop, the price can't be beaten.

I don't really have a numerical goal to reach. But I'd like to fill in the 90+ page journal before the end of the year. I'm using up about 1/2 to 2 pages per entry. 45 books. One a week. Thar's a lotto reading in store. "Literarily!"

Love, Power, Peace